Frog of the Week

Cave Coqui (Eleutherodactylus cooki)

Cave Coquí
photo by Luis J. Villanueva-Rivera
Conservation status is Endangered

Common Name: Cave Coqui, Puerto Rican Cave Frog, Puerto Rican Demon, and Coquí Guajón
Scientific Name: Eleutherodactylus cooki
Family: Eleutherodactylidae
Locations: Puerto Rico
Size: 3.3 inches (8.5 cm)

The Cave Coqui lives in caves, rock grottos, and rocky stream beds. The females are larger than the males. The males have a yellow colored throat and down to the belly. During the mating season (summer and fall), the frogs mate and lay their eggs on boulder surfaces. The female lays on average 17 eggs. The males provide parental care for their eggs by guarding them. The male doesn’t stop mating when protecting the eggs. Its been shown that the males can protect up to 4 different female’s nests. The eggs are direct developing, so once the egg hatches, a froglet comes out, skipping the tadpole stage.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes the Cave Coqui as Endangered. The United States federal government only lists the species as threatened. They only live in a small area in the southeastern part of Puerto Rico. Human development threatens the frog’s habitat. Also, tick and Chytrid Fungus, a deadly fungal disease, are also harming the frogs.

Researcher Samantha Shablin, a Phd Student at the University of Florida, hopes to help protect the Cave Coqui. She fundraising for her research project that aims to understand how the frogs are responding to parasitic and environmental threats. You can help fund this project by donating at https://experiment.com/projects/how-are-cave-dwelling-amphibians-responding-to-parasitic-and-environmental-threats

Frog of the Week

European Tree Frog (Hyla arborea)

European Tree Frog
photo by Christian Fischer
least concern

Common Name: European Tree Frog
Scientific Name: Hyla arborea
Family: Hylidae – Tree Frog Family
Location: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and Ukraine.
Introduced Location: United Kingdom
Male Size: 1.3–1.7 inches (32 – 43 mm)
Female Size: 1.6 – 2.0 inches (40 – 50 mm)

The European Tree Frog lives throughout most of Europe and down to the northern parts of the Middle East. They prefer to live in broad-leafed and mixed forests, bushlands, meadows, and shrubland. The frogs vary in color from green, gray, brown, and yellowish.

Mating occurs between March and June. First, the males move to ponds, lakes, and other stagnant water bodies and start calling. Once a female arrives, the male grasps her from behind in amplexus. Then, the female lays her eggs and the male fertilizes them. The female lays between 200 – 2000 eggs. Neither parent provides any parental care. The eggs hatch into tadpoles in 10 – 14 days after being laid. Then, the tadpoles usually complete their metamorphosis in 3 months, peaking in July.

European Tree Frog
photo by wikiuser RobertC1301

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes he European Tree Frog as Least Concern for Extinction. They have a wide range and are thought to be abundant throughout it. There are local population declines due to habitat loss from destroying forests to make room for urban development.

Frog of the Week

Climbing Mantella (Mantella laevigata)

Climbing Mantella
photo by Frank Vassen

Common Name: Climbing Mantella, Arboreal Mantella, Green-backed Mantella, and Folohy Golden Frog
Scientific Name: Mantella laevigata
Family: Mantellidae – Mantella family
Locations: Madagascar
Size: 0.86 – 1.14 inches (22-29 mm)

Just like all other Mantellas, the Climbing Mantella is found on the island of Madagascar. Specially, they are found in the rain forests, bamboo forests, and wooded forests in northeastern region. They are active during the day (diurnal), like all Mantellas.

The Climbing Mantella is one of the only arboreal species of Mantella. They can climb up to 4 meters high in trees and are often found on plants. They don’t even breed on the ground. During breeding season, the males call out during the day to attract the females. The males are territorial and will fight males that enter their land. However, some males do not defend their territory.

The males call out from raised platforms to attract female. Once a female arrives, the male puts his chin on the top of her head as a courtship display. Then, the male leads the female to a well in the vegetation. Once in there, the male grasps the female around the armpits (axillary amplexus) from behind. Next, the female lays only one eggs in the well and the male fertilizes it. The male stays at the well, hoping to attract more mates and to protect the eggs. The female leaves but often comes back to lay an unfertilized egg for the tadpole to eat.

Mantella frogs are very similar to Poison Dart Frogs. Both display bright colors to show off their toxic taste. They both don’t produce their own poison, they accumulate their poisons for their diet of ants.

Climbing Mantella Conservation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes the Climbing Mantella as Least Concern for Extinction. The frog is abundant in its habitat though there are some threats on the horizon. Increased deforestation due to creating more farms, grazing areas for cattle, and towns is a serious future threat. Also, the harvesting of the frogs for the pet trade is another serious threat to their survival.

New Species

New Species of Salamander from North Carolina – Carolina Sandhills Salamander

Carolina Sandhills Salamander
Carolina Sandhills Salamander (Eurycea arenicola) – photo by L Todd Pusser

North Carolina is home to the most salamander species in the United States, a whopping 63 species! Now, thanks to researchers, the number moves up to 64! The southeastern United States, especially the Appalachian Mountain, is the salamander capitol of the world.

This discovery was 50 years in the making. An unusual salamander species was brought to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Originally, it was thought to be a weird Southern Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea cirrigera). More specimens were collected and curator Alvin Braswell thought it could be a new species. Sadly, he was too busy to pursue the research.

Southern Two-lined Salamander – photo by wikiuser Hargle

In comes Bryan Stuart, research curator of herpetology, who join the museum in 2008. Braswell told him of the salamander and wanted him to research it. Stuart was able to use next generation sequencer to determine that the species was new. He formally described the species as the Carolina Sandhills Salamander (Eurycea arenicola). The salamander is found near the seepages, springs and streams of the Sandhills of North Carolina. The Carolina Sandhills Salamander is red to orange in color. They don’t have a the dark band on its side like the Southern Two-lined Salamander do. These salamanders are pretty small ranging from 2.2 – 3.5 inches (56. -89.1 mm) from snout to tail.

You can read the full paper at https://bioone.org/journals/herpetologica/volume-76/issue-4/0018-0831-76.4.423/A-New-Two-Lined-Salamander-Eurycea-bislineata-Complex-from-the/10.1655/0018-0831-76.4.423.short

Frog of the Week

Limosa Harlequin Frog (Atelopus limosus)

Limosa Harlequin Frog
photo by Brian Gratwicke

Common Name: Limosa Harlequin Frog
Scientific Name: Atelopus limosus
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad family
Locations: Panama
Size: 1 – 1.6 inches (26.5 – 40.2 mm)

The Limosa Harlequin Frog lives amongst slopes of rocky streams in the forests of central Panama. Their bright colors warn predators of their toxicity, allowing them to be active during the day. There are two different morphs of the species. The lowland morph has a brown color with yellow fingertips. Meanwhile, the highland morph is green and yellow with a black V on its back. The females generally have a red / orange colored belly.

Limosa Harlequin Frog Conservation

The Harlequin Frogs(Atelopus) are one of the most endangered group of frogs in the world and sadly, the Limosa Harlequin Frog doesn’t fair any better. Additionally, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List classifies the frog as Critically Endangered. It is estimated that 80% of the population will die off One of the main reason for the declines is the invasive fungal pathogen Chytrid Fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). This pathogen causes the skin of the frog to harden. Due to frogs only breathing through their skin, this causes them to suffocate and die. The loss of habitat for urban development and farms is another reason for the declines. At last, pollution from gold mining isn’t helping either.

To help ensure that the Limosa Harlequin Frog survives, researchers at the Smithsonian Institute and the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project have taken some of the frogs into captivity. They are raising frogs and tadpoles to release into the wild as well as keeping an emergency group in place.

croctober

Black Caiman (Melanosuchus niger)

Black Caimen
photo by wikiuser Rigelus

Common Name: Black Caiman
Scientific Name: Melanosuchus niger
Family: Alligatoridae – Alligator family
Locations: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, and Peru
Size: 7.25 – 14.1 feet (2.2 to 4.3 meters) , can grow to 16.5 feet (5 meters)

The Black Caiman is the largest living species of caiman, capable of reaching 16.5 feet long and reaching over a thousand pounds! They live in the Amazon River Basin, where they are one of the apex predators there. Once the Black Caiman reaches full size, only humans attempt to hunt them. The caiman feeds on a variety of animals such as snakes, fish, monkeys, frogs, and even other caiman. They hunt at night, where their excellent night vision help out.

At the end of the dry season, the females start to build their nests of soil and vegetation. Additionally, these nests are almost 5 feet (1.5 meters) long and 2 and a half feet (0.75 meters) wide. At the start of the wet season (May – June), the caiman lays between 30 – 60 eggs. The mother protects her nests from predators until they hatch. The eggs hatch between 42 – 90 days after being laid. The mother helps dig the hatchlings out of the nest. Then, the offspring stick close to their mom. Even with their mom’s protection, a large number of the offspring die.

Black Caiman Conservation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes the Black Caiman as Conservation Dependent. The IUCN Red List no longer uses this category. The caiman’s status hasn’t been reassessed since 2000 when they were placed there. Before, they were categorized as endangered due to over hunting of the species. Hunting of the species has slowed down thanks to legal protections.

croctober

American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)

American Crocodile
photo by wikiuser Mattstone911

Common Name: American Crocodile
Scientific Name: Crocodylus acutus
Family: Crocodylidae – Crocodile Family
Locations: Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, United States, Venezuela, and Bolivia
US Location: Florida
Average Male Size: 9.5 – 13.1 feet (2.9 – 4 meters)
Average Female Size: 8.2 – 9.8 feet (2.5 -3 meters)
Maximum Size: 20 feet (6.1 meters)

The American Crocodile has the most widespread range of any crocodile in the Americas. They reach from southern Florida, through Central America, and down to northern South America. They live in fresh or brackish water of estuaries, lagoons, and mangrove swamps.

The American Crocodile breeds during the dry season. The males are highly territorial and fight other males for the best land. The courtship and breeding takes place in the water. The male’s main advertisement to females is 1 to 3 headslaps. If this is acceptable for the female, then she either puts her head on his back / head or performs some snout lifts. Next, the male lets out a low frequency noise that makes water blow up off of his back, called water dancing. Finally, the two mate in the shallows.

The female builds their nests on elevated, well drained soil. The female lays between 30 – 60 eggs. Temperature determines the sex of the offspring. Temperatures between 88- 91° F (31.1 – 32.7° C) produce mostly male offspring. Meanwhile, temperatures lower than 88° F (31.1° C) result in mostly females. The female parent protect the nest from scavengers such as raccoons and iguanas. The eggs hatch in 75 – 80 days at the start of the wet season. The female helps dig ups the hatched babies and carries them to the water.

American Crocodile Conservation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List classifies the American Crocodile as Vulnerable to Extinction. The Croc’s populations has improved than it previously had been. It was listed as Endangered before conservation work was done to help save them. Unfortunately, they were over-hunted for their hides before being listed on the US Endangered Species List in the 1970s. However, they moved from listed as federally endangered to federally threatened. Protections are still in place to help conserve the species from overharvesting. Unfortunately, their habitat is under threat of destruction to make room for more urban areas.

croctober

Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)

Gharial
Male Gharial – photo by Charles J Sharp

Common Name: Gharial, Gavial, and Fish-eating Crocodile
Scientific Name: Gavialis gangeticus
Family: Gavialidae – Gharial family
Locations: Bangladesh, India, and Nepal
Female Size: 8.5 feet (2.6 meters) – 14.75 feet (4.5 meters)
Male Size: 10 feet (3 meters) – 20 feet (6 meters)

The Gharial is known for their long, narrow snout that is adept at catching fish. Males of the species develop a gross looking growths called a ghara on the tip of their snouts once they reach sexual maturity. Ghara means Mud Pot in Hindi. They use the ghara to vocalize more loudly and blow bubbles during their mating displays.

The mating season for the frogs happens during the dry season, between March and April. The males stake out their territory and defend it from rival males. Females in the territory mate with the male and she then lays an average on 40 eggs. Their eggs are the largest eggs of all the living crocodilians, averaging over 5 ounces. The male provides no parental care for their offspring and will move onto reproducing with other females. The female stays to protect her nest from predators. The eggs hatch between 30 – 80 days. After hatching, the mom still protects the babies for weeks and even months.

Gharial Conservation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List classifies the Gharial as Critically Endangered. Their habitat has been drastically altered due to damming and diverting water from the rivers. Gharials don’t do well far away from the river. These alterations to the habitat causes them to have to travel farther on land when moving to new spots in their river, increasing their chance of dying. Overfishing is also rampant in rivers that the Gharial is found in. This reduces their food source and they get stuck or injured by nets.

Uncategorized

CROCtober

Welcome to CROCtober, the annual celebrations of all things crocodilian, the animal group – not the shoes, during October. The term Crocodilians includes crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and gharials. These creatures are often misunderstood as furious, killing machines but there’s more to them than that. Crocodilians are one of the most endangered group of animals on the planet. Out of the 23 species, 7 of the species are listed as critically endangered. Additionally, 4 species are listed as vulnerable to extinction. That’s not great.

Over the month of CROCtober, I plan to highlight the different species of crocodilians, the troubles they face, some researchers who study them, and how you can help save the crocs. Don’t worry, frog content will still be posted. Stay tuned!

Frog of the Week

Cape Platanna (Xenopus gilli)

Cape Platanna
photo by flickr user Chris Verwey
Conservation status is Endangered

Common Name: Cape Platanna, Gill’s Plantanna, and Cape Clawed Toad
Scientific Name: Xenopus gilli
Family: Pipidae – Tongueless Frog family
Locations: South Africa
Size: 2.3 inches (60 mm)

The Cape Platanna is an aquatic frog that inhabits the highly acidic seepages, marshes, ponds, and lakes of coastal South Africa. These waterbodies are dark in color, allowing the frogs to blend in. The Platanna are able to “see” in this water due to their highly developed lateral line system. This system always them to detect small vibrations in the water. The frogs have highly webbed clawed toes on their back legs to help them swim. They only come to the surface when their wetlands dry up during the summer or when they want to migrate ponds during the mating season. The frogs aestivate during the summer when their ponds dry up by digging deep into the mud.

The Cape Platanna breeds during the winter months between July to October. Unlike most frogs, members of the family Pipidae lack vocal sacs. To communicate with female frogs, the male frogs make a series clicks. Once the female selects her mate, the male grasps her around the waist in the amplexus position. Then, the female lays between 300 – 400 eggs while the male fertilizes them. Neither parent is known to provide any parental care. Once the eggs hatch, the tadpoles take 120 days to complete their metamorphosis.

Cape Platanna Conservation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes the Cape Platanna as Endangered with Extinction. There is believed to be only 5 locations where the frogs live. Most of the wetlands that the frog calls home as been filled to make room for housing development and farm lands. Additionally, the frog hybridizes with the African Clawed Frog (Xenopus laevis), reducing their numbers. Better protections are needed to help save them.